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There is, I think, no doubt of this passage being corrupted, the commentators have all failed in explaining it; and, indeed, as it stands, it is inexplicable.
SCENE VII. 49. " Keep your duties “ As I have set them down. If I do send,
dispatch,” &c. We might read smoothly:
“ As they're set down; if I do send dispatch.”
SCENE VIII. 50. “ Not Afric owns a serpent, I abhor
“ More than thy fame and envy." Envy, I believe, is used here in its ordinary signification; and the meaning of the passage I take to be plainly this, Africa owns not a serpent that I more abhor than I do thy fame, and the envy which is excited by that fame. “Owns,” I suspect, should be owes. 51. “ The whip of your bragg'd progeny."
The scourge (of the Greeks) belonging to the race which boasts its lineage from the kings of
B. STRUTT. 52. “ Your condemned seconds."
Mr. Steevens's defence of this reading appears to me much strained ; and I do not hesitate to adopt Dr. Johnson's emendation, “ contemned.”
SCENE IX. 55. “Well might they fester 'gainst ingrati
“ (Whereof we have ta’en good, and good store)
of all.” As a negative repeated, contradicts itself, so the repetition of “good,” here, is only productive of evil : I suppose the word fell into the page by mistake: it certainly should be ejected from the line : " (Whereof we have ta’en store, and good) of
all.” “ The treasure,” &c. 55. "
- When drums and trumpets shall, “ I'the field prove flatterers, let courts and
cities' be “Made all of false-fac'd soothing." The word "let,” which is not necessary to the construction, and loads the metre, should be dismissed. 56. " When steel grows
“ Soft as the parasite's silk, let him be made
“ An overture for the wars." Whether we are to understand the silk or the parasite as the antecedent to which “him” refers, "an overture for the wars,” means, I believe, a signal, an ensign, or displayed flag. 57. “ Give you truly.
Deliver your character and deservings faithfully.
" His trim belonging." “Belonging,” a noun, appertenance: as, in Measure for Measure,
“ Thyself and thy belonging.”
“ Coriolanus.” This Agnomen has furnished an opportunity for speculative refinement to amuse us, of late, upon the stage, with a very whimsical mode of pronunciation, not by placing the emphasis upon the second syllable, as in Cor'ioli, (which the metre forbids,) but by making the unaccentuated i, long, contrary to, I believe, an unvarying rule, by which i, preceding o, or, indeed, any other vowel, is short, unless it be emphatic also; thus we say, society, impi'ety, varī'ety; but we say social, im'plous, vārious; and not social im'pious vārious : we say violent, ri’otous; but we say, fūrious, cūrious, not fūrious, cūrious ; in short, until I know an instance of the i going before another vowel, with the long or open sound, unless, at the same time, it be emphatic, till I can find a single example to countenance this cacophonous utterance of Coriolanus, I shall conform to custom and prosody, and say Cõryolānus. 58. “To undercrest your good addition.
“To the fairness of my power.” The meaning, I believe, is, to confirm, as well as I can, by deeds, my right to those honourable distinctions which you bestow upon me; for “ fairness,” I wish we might read, “ fulness.” 59. “
I sometimes lay, here in Corioli, “At a poor man's house; he us'd me kindly.” There is a syllable wanting to the measure, and North's translation of Plutarch seems to afford the means of supplying the defect: “At a poor Volce's house; he us’d me kindly.”
By Jupiter, forgot :“ I am weary,” &c. These casual peculiarities of character Shakspeare is fond of exhibiting. Brutus forgets where he had laid his book; and Hotspur forgets to bring the map. Though these incidents are not at all connected with the plot or conduct of the play, they are all highly interesting.
SCENE X. 60. “ I would I were a Roman; for I cannot,
“ Being a Volce, be that I am.” I would I were of any other country, even that of our enemy; for the disgrace which has fallen upon the Volcians is utterly incompatible with the honour and dignity that otherwise and naturally belong to me. 61. "
My valour's poison'd “With only suffering stain by him ; for
him “ Shall fly out of itself.” Part of the difficulty, here, arrises from the improper construction already noted in a preceding passage : "
I'd revolt to make “ Only my wars on him.” Instead of, my wars only on him. Here the sense is,
" My valour's poisoned, “ Only with suffering stain by him.” That degradation subdues my honourable courage, which, for his sake, or, by his means, will vanish, or fly out of itself.
ACT II. SCENE I. 65. “ - Else your actions would grow won
drous single.” “ Single” and “ double" appear sometimes to be used with a meaning different from the obvious ones, and imply small, feeble, inconsiderable; and great, powerful, and overbearing; thus, besides the instance before us, the Chief Justice in the Second
Part of K. Henry IV, tells Falstaff, that his wit is single ; whereby I suppose is meant small, weak, unfortified ; and, on the other hand, we find, in Othello, a voice as double as the duke's; that is, as strong, as efficient. 66. “Then you should discover a brace of un
meriting, proud, violent, testy magis
trates (alias fools) as any in Rome." Mr. Malone thinks it proper to tell us, here, that this was the phraseology of Shakspeare's age, of which he had found many instances in the books of that time. This is really a very extraordinary remark, as the expression, to which it refers, is neither peculiar to Shakspeare, nor to the writers of his time; but was then, and has been ever since, the language of all our poets : “ Black it stood as night, .“ Fierce as ten furies, horrible as hell.”
Paradise Lost. “ O! my earthly saint! I see your visage, " Pale as the cherubin at Adam's fall. N. Lee. And again :
-0! a kiss, “ Balmy as cordials that recover souls; “ Chaste as maids' sighs, and keen as mothers' longing."
Ibidem. Shakspeare, like any other poet, either admits or rejects the comparative particle at the beginning of the sentence, just as it may suit the structure of his verse; he admits it in this very play: “ Let me clip thee. “ In arms as sound as when I woo’d; in heart “ As merry as when our nuptial day was done."
And also in Julius Cæsar : “ As dear to me as are the ruddy drops " That visit my sad heart."